Learning Communities News - 2007

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  • This spring has been a time for those involved with Terrascope to present their work to wider audiences.  In May, this year’s class of Terrascopers opened to the public an interactive museum they had created focusing on New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina. Exhibits included:

    • A walk-through maze, representing the decision tree New Orleans residents were faced with as Katrina approached, during the storm and in its aftermath. As visitors entered the maze, signs directed them to decide between evacuating or remaining in New Orleans. Those who chose evacuation had a choice of destination, and those who chose to stay also had a number of options. Each choice led to a distinct path through the maze, with distinct consequences. For example, those who chose to remain in their homes passed through a “storm” that included debris propelled by a fan, eventually emerging onto a simulated rooftop to await evacuation.

    • A replica of a storm-ravaged house, marked on the outside with the now-familiar annotated X painted on by post-storm emergency officials.  Visitors first entered a room laid out to represent the jumbled, muddy interior of a house, as it would have appeared shortly after the storm.  They then passed through into a room showing what a house would look like in the midst of gutting and restoration. Interactive elements enabled visitors to get a feel for what it might be like to work on such a restoration. For example, they could try to break up a wall with a sledgehammer, explore secret compartments in which some New Orleanians stored valuables, and sort debris according to rules established by recovery workers.

    • An informational tour of hurricanes and their effects, including an interactive element in which visitors could create a simulated storm surge and see how it affected regions protected by wetlands and barrier islands, those protected by levees, and those with no protection. In another element, visitors learned the difference between the infamous “I-wall” floodwalls, and the superior “T-wall” systems, by erecting their own floodwalls in a sandbox and feeling how easily an I-wall can be compromised.

  • Participants in the MIT Terrascope program, a freshman learning community affiliated with DUE’s Office of Experiential Learning, spent Spring Break in and around New Orleans, on a field trip designed to deepen their appreciation of issues they explored during the fall semester and to provide information and resources for projects they are working on in the spring.

  • Terascopers setup exhibit at the Aquarium of the PacificLast year, students in Terrascope, one of MIT’s alternative freshman programs, created an interactive museum in Lobby 13, where hundreds of visitors learned about the science of tsunamis and about the devastating effects of a tsunami that struck Valdivia, Chile, in 1960. Now they are taking their work to a much wider audience—the 1.4 million visitors expected to pass through a new exhibit opening this summer at the Aquarium of the Pacific, in Long Beach, California.